New Workplace Menopause Guidance

It is important to make you aware of the new guidance that has recently been published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on menopause and the workplace, which sets out employers’ legal obligations under the Equality Act 2010 and ways in which businesses can support women with menopausal symptoms at work.

Menopause and Perimenopause:

For those who are unaware, menopause is when a woman’s periods stop due to reduced hormone levels. This normally occurs between the ages of 45 and 55 but can sometimes be earlier or later. It can occur for many reasons, including:

  • Naturally
  • Genetics
  • Surgery
  • Cancer treatments

although, the reason can sometimes be unknown.

Perimenopause is when a woman experiences symptoms of menopause, but her periods have not stopped. Menopause can cause a range of both physical, and psychological symptoms in women.

The EHRC has stated that many women between the ages of 40-60 report experiencing negative impacts of menopausal symptoms in the workplace, with some even feeling pressured to leave their jobs.

Employer obligations under the EqA 2010:

Under the Equality Act 2010, workers are protected from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation on the basis of protected characteristics including disability, age and sex. If menopausal symptoms have a long term and substantial impact on a woman’s ability to carry out their usual day-to-day activities, these symptoms could be considered a disability. At least it was in the case of Rooney v Leicester City Council, whereby it was successfully argued that menopause could be classed as a disability in the workplace, which is significant caselaw for employers.

If this is the case, employers will be under a legal obligation to make reasonable adjustments in the workplace. They will also be under a legal obligation to not directly or indirectly discriminate because of the disability or subject the woman to discrimination arising from disability.

Women experiencing menopausal symptoms may also be protected from direct and indirect discrimination, as well as harassment and victimisation, on the grounds of age and sex.

Suggested measures:

The EHRC also published guidance which sets out what businesses can do to mitigate the impact of menopause on women in the workplace. Some of these measures include:

  • Providing rest areas and quiet rooms
  • Introducing cooling systems or fans for women experiencing hot flushes
  • Relaxing uniform policies
  • Providing cooler clothing
  • Promoting flexibility of location
  • Varying shift patterns

They advise that menopause related absences are recorded separately from other types of absence. It is also recommended that employers encourage a culture of open conversations regarding workplace menopause, so that women can feel more comfortable to talk about their symptoms and ask for adjustments should they be needed. Involving all workers, not just managers, in these conversations will help them to feel confident in supporting other colleagues.

This could be done through training, which could include manager training, lunch and learn sessions and opportunities for women to discuss their experiences and get support. Conversations can also be informal and may consist simply of regular reminders to workers of the support available to them, and offering confidential one-to-one support meetings with managers to discuss any issues they are experiencing.

Employers may also support women by introducing a menopause policy that outlines the support available and provides guidance to managers and colleagues. Therefore, policies and practices may need to be adapted accordingly, to ensure fairness and inclusivity in the workplace. We will of course ensure that this is done on your behalf.